A felony conviction on your record, for any type of crime, can permanently affect your reputation and opportunities moving forward.
Our defense lawyers know that not everyone facing a domestic violence charge has committed a crime. You may have many questions after being charged with domestic violence, such as:
- Is domestic violence a felony in Texas?
- When is a domestic violence charge a felony?
- What is the maximum penalty for domestic violence charges in Texas?
Domestic violence charges typically arise in high-stress scenarios where emotions are running high. After these emotions cool, a family is often left to deal with a situation that is going to harm the entire family unit for the worse.
Representation from a skilled San Antonio criminal defense lawyer will help give you the best opportunity to get your domestic violence charges reduced or dismissed entirely.
Our team at Austin Hagee Law Firm is made up of former prosecutors and skilled trial attorneys—so we know how prosecutors think and how they strategize a case.
What is Domestic Violence in Texas?
Texas law defines domestic violence as abuse between people in a domestic relationship by consanguinity or affinity. This means that the parties are related by blood or by marriage and includes the following relationships:
- Parents and children (adoptive, biological, or foster),
- Aunts and uncles,
- Dating couples,
- Current or former spouses,
- Roommates or co-tenants,
- Grandparents, or
It also includes abuse between people in a dating relationship. Not all family violence in Texas is classified as a felony, in fact, most of the family violence offenses brought in Texas are for misdemeanor charges. However, in certain circumstances the charges will be enhanced to a felony.
Enhancement for Domestic Violence Penalties
Texas does not outline penalties for domestic violence generally. Instead, penalties for certain existing criminal acts have their punishment degree increased when committed against a family member.
That means, the prosecuting attorney must prove the elements of the offense and provide sufficient evidence to the judge that there is sufficient factual basis to support a finding of domestic violence.
This finding can have serious repercussions on an individual’s liberty. Also, this finding in certain factual situations can increase a common misdemeanor assault to a felony.
Our team of domestic violence attorneys can review the details of your case and work to help you attack an element of the alleged offense or build a proper defense.
Contact our office today so we can review your case in detail and let you know what charges you will be facing and how to fight them.
For example, a simple assault charge in Texas is considered a Class C misdemeanor. But when the assault happens between people in a domestic relationship, the crime now has the potential for an affirmative finding of family violence, which would stay permanently on the individual’s record.
This is much more severe punishment than the common misdemeanor assault. Additionally, a future domestic violence assault could be brought as a felony after this affirmative finding of family violence is tagged on a previous assault.
This is called Assault Family 2nd Offense and is a third degree felony. This is why even a misdemeanor class C assault should be handled as diligently as possibly to avoid future enhancement or a finding of family violence on your record.
An aggravated assault charge is generally considered a second-degree felony. In Texas, a felony of the second degree carries the possibility of up to 20 years in prison, with a minimum sentence of 2 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
However, an enhanced domestic violence aggravated assault charge is considered a first-degree felony for punishment purposes. In Texas, a first-degree felony carries the possibility of up to 99 years in prison, with a minimum sentence of 5 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
Continuous violence against the family is another domestic violence charge in Texas. This offense occurs when someone commits domestic violence twice within 12 months or less, even without a conviction.
This means two charges being brought without convictions can trigger this felony enhancement, even if both cases are misdemeanors.
Continuous violence against the family is considered a third-degree felony and carries the possibility of between 2 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
A person commits the offense of making terroristic threats when they commit any crime involving violence to any person or property with the intent to:
- Cause a reaction of any type by an official or volunteer agency organized to deal with emergencies;
- Place a person in fear of imminent serious bodily injury;
- Prevent or interrupt the occupation or use of a building, room, place of assembly, places the public can access, places of employment, aircrafts, or automobiles;
- Cause impairment or interruption of public communications, public transportation, public water, gas, power supply, or other public service; or
- Place the public or a substantial group of the public in fear of serious bodily injury.
Making terroristic threats against family members with the intent to place them in fear of imminent serious bodily injury is considered a Class A misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor can include potential penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.
Certain forms of stalking can involve family members. Stalking consists of the following:
- On more than one occasion,
- And pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct that is directed at a specific person,
- The defendant knowingly engages in conduct that they know or reasonably should know the other person will regard as harassing or threatening bodily injury to another person or a member of their family.
Stalking is considered a third degree felony unless the accused has a prior stalking conviction then it will be considered a second degree felony.
However, if the person is a family member or has been in a dating relationship with the person the ways to prove stalking broaden in the following ways:
- If an individual causes a member of the other person’s family or household, or an individual with whom the other person has a dating relationship to be placed in fear of bodily injury or death or in fear that an offense will be committed against the other person’s property, or to feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended; and
- would cause a reasonable person to fear bodily injury or death for himself or herself; or
- fear bodily injury or death for a member of the person’s family or household or for an individual with whom the person has a dating relationship; or
- fear that an offense will be committed against the person’s property; or
- feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.
This last point is notable as it makes the line between misdemeanor harassment and felony stalking much narrower in situations of family violence.
The difference between the two may come down to a single fact. For these reasons, it is important to speak to an attorney that is well versed in the law regarding these types of offenses.
Defenses to Domestic Violence Charges
Domestic violence allegations typically arise in heated, emotional scenarios. Our team knows that not everyone facing a domestic violence charge has committed a crime.
Unfortunately, false allegations arise frequently in domestic violence scenarios. Whether it be motivated by revenge for infidelity or to get an upperhand in a divorce, there are many documented cases of false allegations being brought.
In some cases, a legal defense can help negate an element of the charged offense and convince the prosecutor to reduce or dismiss the charges. Domestic violence defenses that can help your case include:
- You acted in self-defense,
- Your accuser is trying to gain the upper hand in a child custody dispute or divorce,
- Your accuser is seeking revenge with false domestic violence accusations, or
- You acted in defense of others.
Even if your domestic violence defense does not convince the prosecutor to drop your case, we can present it at trial and try to secure an acquittal.
A legal defense does not apply to every domestic violence case, but not every attorney has the time or knowledge to build a defense for you.
Contact a domestic violence lawyer at Austin Hagee Law Firm so we can start reviewing your case. We look forward to working with you to protect your constitutional rights.
When Is Domestic Violence a Felony in Texas? Contact Austin Hagee Law Firm Today to Find Out
The answer depends on numerous factors, such as previous convictions, whether another charge was brought in the last 12 months, and the relationship of the parties at the time of the offense.
Our team will gladly help you figure out whether you are being charged with a felony and whether this is an appropriate charge for your factual scenario.
The criminal defense attorneys at Austin Hagee Law Firm have helped countless clients secure favorable results, despite daunting domestic violence accusations.
We have the expertise and resources it takes to protect your constitutional rights. Our team can request the police report, gather statements from witnesses, and negotiate with the district attorney on your behalf.
If necessary, we are prepared to take your case to trial. While we cannot guarantee a victory, we have a record of helping our clients secure dismissals and wins at trial, and we would be happy to fight to help you do the same.